I who is the biggest loss? | II who needs to step up? | III who will surprise? | IV most excited to see...? | V who is the future of the program?
The second of five Big East Basketball Roundtables focuses on the player who needs to step his hoop game up for the program to be successful.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! College hoops, changing leaves, and rain is in the air. The future looks promising. And we turn our eyes to that player on the teams we follow who everyone knows can do it, that player that so many see the potential in, that player that the fans just want to see bust out.
That's the player who needs to step it up.
Our crack team of hoops minds sent in their pick for the player on their team who needs to elevate his game or consistency to bring his team to the heights their fans hope they can. This list includes players who can make or break a team - the players we will all be talking about if some low-buzz team like South Florida starts making real headway in the Big East like Cincinnati and St. John's did last year.
The boldface names from our contributors... after the jump.
Gates has had kind of a disappointing career. He's been a nice player, but hasn't been the star that he's been hyped to be. After a solid start to last season, he fell into a swoon that saw him not make the trip to Pittsburgh, not start against DePaul, and not play late against St John's. After coming back, Gates tore things up. If he can bring that renewed energy and focus to this season, Cincinnati should more than live up to it's potential.
Lamb is going to have to be the centerpiece of the offense A.K. [EDITOR'S NOTE - That apparently means "after Kemba."] He was a breakout star in the march to the championship, but without the safety blanket of #15 distributing the ball and taking every crunch-time shot, Lamb will have to figure out more creative ways to get open when other teams' focus will be on him. (Having a viable offensive threat in the post should be a major, major help for him, see a few columns over.)
At 6'10, 250lbs, Krys Faber has the size and strength to compete in the Big East. However, many DePaul fans feel Faber's game is extremely frustrating at times. His lack of touch with his shot, along with a high volume of fouls, have been trouble points for the senior. Over the summer, Faber has renewed his focus on improve his shot, and is looking to provide solid minutes at the five. He will be challenged by former Miami Hurricane, 6'9" Donnavan Kirk.
The two nominal stars for the Hoyas coming into this season are Jason Clark (sr) and Hollis Thompson (jr). If they can play near as efficiently as last season while taking a bigger load of the offense, that'd be great but not entirely unexpected.
The other returning upperclassman is Henry Sims (sr). He has shown some flashes of becoming a viable starting center - he had a memorable run in the Charleston Classic last season - but he's never won the confidence of Coach Thompson. Henry is, well, flakey. He's the guy who ran for student council office during the basketball season.
But he was Georgetown's best defensive player last season against top-100 teams, because he is able to block shots without giving away defensive rebounds. Meanwhile, two bigs looking to get minutes this year are injured (Moses Ayegba - ACL, out for season; Tyler Adams - ankle, status unknown). For a team that will have to re-invent itself as a defense-first to win games this year, Henry's emergence as a 25+ minute anchor in the middle is critical.
Georgetown will need the enigmatic Clark to provide senior leadership on this young squad and will count on him to put points on the board along with Hollis Thompson. Sims is Georgetown's only real presence in the middle, so pretty much everything hinges upon his ability to improve.
Gorgui Dieng, 6-foot-10 sophomore center, has beefed up over the past year, now weighs over 220 pounds , compared to 180 last season. The weight is all muscle. Needs to put that newfound strength to work immediately, becoming a force offensively and defensively. Dieng is still fairly new to the game, having played soccer most of his life, but Rick Pitino says he's a quick learner. Dieng welcomes difficult challenges, saying nothing worthwhile having comes easily.
We'll cheat and go with two. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder are the two seniors and leaders of the team. Both could be stellar last year, but also frequently disappear. Both players need to lead consistently for MU to meet their (high) expectations.
Most Marquette fans expected DJO to make The Leap last year, and though he showed flashes of being one of the BEast's most impressive offensive weapons -- 29 on the road at Rutgers, 25 in a road loss to ND, the overtime game @ UConn that he completely took over in the last five minutes, the dagger three-pointer against 'Cuse that sent MU to the Sweet 16 -- there were frustrating stretches when he stopped looking for his shot and all but disappeared on the floor. This year, there's no one to defer to anymore (although involving Jae Crowder in the offense is a good idea, too). This is DJO's team, and DJO's time.
The argument could be made for J.J. Moore since Pitt will really need his scoring this year, but I'll pick Taylor. He was a McDonald's All-American coming in two seasons ago and hasn't made his mark yet. Without Gary McGhee in the middle, it's time for Taylor to step in and become a major contributor.
Council will be solid, Coleman could give PC a solid BE level backcourt.
The Friars can have a great backcourt if Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman show more consistency and keep developing. With Dunn and Ledo joining in 2012, the backcourt becomes downright sick. However, PC still needs a presence down low. Bilal Dixon will be the most experienced over the next two years, so he needs to step up after regressing as a sophomore.
Dane Miller not only needs to maintain his defense, but really step it up as a leader and on offense.
Last season, Auda averaged just 3PTS/2.5REB in limited time (15min), while playing through a turf toe injury in his freshman campaign. Limited playing time will not be an issue this season, as Auda projects to be one of the Pirates main cogs, offensively and on the glass. Auda has had a strong offseason, with impressive play in the Jersey Shore Basketball League and the 2011 World Games with the Czech Republic. In 8 starts, he led his national team with 15PTS/7.5REB and nearly 2 steals a game. I'm projecting similar numbers for the Hall in his sophomore season, although I'm still not sold that he's going to be a lights out shooter from distance which we were originally led to believe.
He really is one of the more talented posts in the conference, he just needs to figure it out mentally.
He's the only returnee! Stith played more like a 5'11 shooting guard who didn't shoot particularly well, instead of a point guard. If he can up his assist rate from 13.8% (which is poor for any player who isn't always looking to shoot) while maintaining his low turnover rate, Stith could help the Red Storm be a little better than advertised.
Is everyone a choice? While CJ Fair would be a good choice, he actually played well for most of the year last season. Dion Waiters was not nearly as consistent and only came on late in the year during the NCAA Tournament. He needs to be more of a scoring threat this season.
It's their program now, and we may see both bolt to the NBA if they put together big seasons. This team will run as they run.
Dominic Cheek will have to become a lot more consistent from deep or one of the freshmen will have to step up to help keep defenses honest. He will get the starts and the shots that Stokes left behind and will need to make the most of those opportunities. He had a couple big games in Europe though, so hopefully he is on the right track.
Villanova Villanova By The Numbers STEP IT UP: Maalik Wayns
The team should not need Wayns to score, but instead be a leader. The team lacking Stokes and Fisher needed leadership even more than scoring. Wayns has to learn how to set the table for the others.
Truck hasn't improved much over the course of his tenure in Morgantown, and that needs to change this year for WVU to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year. Given the amount of young talent on the roster, Truck will be looked to to provide consistency and poise, which he has struggled to provide thus far. He shows flashes of greatness, then goes dormant sometimes, which can be maddening. He's the key for WVU this year, in my opinion.